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Make working from home work for you

Alexandra Cain
Business Journalist

Alexandra Cain writes regularly for the small business sections of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review

Alexandra Cain
Business Journalist

Alexandra Cain writes regularly for the small business sections of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review

Turn your home office into a productive money-making hub. It’s time to dress the part, invest in some good technology and achieve a real work/life balance.

It’s easy to think that when you work from home you’ll be easily distracted by re-runs of Oprah and Dr Phil and you won’t get any work done. However, it’s actually very easy to be extremely productive when you work from home if you have the right building blocks in place.

Kensington Light House home office, Melbourne

1. Get dressed

Firstly, it’s a great idea to adopt a ‘no trakkie daks’ rule. If you want to feel and sound professional – at least when you first start working from home – it’s an idea to ditch the comfy pyjamas and put on clean, neat clothes. You don’t need to put on a suit and tie, or even a pair of heels – a smart shirt and pants or skirt will help you distinguish between the work and home environments.

2. The office

Many small businesses start their life on the kitchen or dining room table. But if at all possible, it’s a great idea to have a dedicated room which functions as an office. It might be a spare bedroom. It might be a sunroom. You could also consider putting your office in a granny flat or garage.

Being able to delineate your home and office space will help to create the impression in your mind that when you’re in your office you’re at work, and when you’re in the other parts of the house, you’re at home. For many small business owners, work can easily be encompassing, so drawing this line is important for striking a positive work-life balance. 

3. Leave home

Here’s a great psychological trick that will help you separate your home from your business: Every morning before you start work, leave the house to do some exercise, get provisions for the day or meet a friend for an early coffee. The idea is that when you arrive back at home, you’ll be entering the space that’s your office, not the space where you live.

Similarly, at the end of the day, leave the house again. When you come back home, it won’t be your office anymore, it will be your house. It’s a great way of separating the two spaces in your head.

4. Use technology

Just because you don’t have the resources and deep pockets of a large business doesn’t mean you can’t have access to the latest technology to make your life effective. At the core of this should be your electronic diary that you can update from your smart device or laptop wherever you are. Make sure you schedule meetings and business calls as you would if you were working at an external office.

It’s also essential to get your business a dedicated phone number that you answer by announcing your business – nothing says unprofessional more than kids or friends answering a business call.

Make sure you use an external cloud-based document and data storage facility so your business is always backed up. Ensure you have a reliable printer and scanner in your home office as well.

5. Schedule breaks

Another risk factor when you work from home is being susceptible to working around the clock and always being available for clients at any time of the day, and night. While working from home does give you a great deal of flexibility to work when you want, make sure you also take breaks. This will make you ultimately more productive and allow you to give your brain a break to come up with more great business ideas. Take a lunch break – even if it’s only 15 minutes. 

6. Go out

While it’s very convenient to work from home – no more peak hour traffic jams are a huge plus – you also need to leave the office. So be sure to schedule some client meetings at their office or at another location such as a café.

It’s also an idea to attend networking events with other people who work from home to widen your circle and for new business contacts. Going to industry events and conferences can help increase knowledge of your industry. Smarter curates industry events every month, check in here regularly to see if there’s anything that suits you.

7. Look professional

Your business must still look professional, even if it’s based at home. This involves setting up a website for your enterprise and having business cards and letterhead printed. It’s an idea to invest in a domain name for your business so your email address is your business name, rather than having a generic email.

Working from home is a great way to keep your business costs down and if you manage your time well, it’s also an excellent way to achieve a real work/life balance. But it’s essential to be disciplined and have guidelines about how you spend your time so you don’t end up either ‘always at work’, or not as productive as possible because you’re in a home mindset when you’re really at work.

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